Hearing Wilhelm Keitel 2

Morning session, April 4, 1946; part 1

Inhoudsopgave

The PRESIDENT: Go on, Dr. Nelte.
Dr. NELTE: Yesterday we discussed last the meeting on April 21 of you, Hitler, and Adjutant Schmund. I am again having Document 388-PS brought to you and ask you to answer when I ask you. Was this not a conference of the kind which you said yesterday in principle did not take place?
KEITEL: To a certain extent it is true that I was called in and to my complete surprise was presented with ideas concerning preparation for war against Czechoslovakia. This took place within a very short time, before one of Hitler's departures for Berchtesgaden. I do not recall saying one word during these short instructions, but I asked only one question and then with these extreme surprising directives I went home.
Dr. NELTE: What happened then, as far as you were concerned?
KEITEL: My reflections during the first hour after that was that this could not be carried out in view of the military strength, which I knew we then possessed. I then comforted myself with the thought that the conversation promised that nothing had been planned within a measurable lapse of time. The following day, I discussed the matter with the Chief of the Operations Staff, General Jodl. I never received any minutes of this discussion, nor record. The outcome of our deliberations was "to leave things alone because there was plenty of time and because any such action was out of the question for military reasons." I also explained to Jodl that the introductory words had been: "It is not my Intention to undertake military action against Czechoslovakia within a measurable lapse of time."
Then, in the next weeks, we started theoretical deliberations; this however, without taking into consultation the branches of the Wehrmacht because I considered myself not authorized to do so. In the following period it is to be noted, as can be seen from the Schmund File, that the adjutants, the military adjutants, continuously asked innumerable detailed questions regarding the strength of divisions and so on. These questions were answered by the Wehrmacht Operations Staff to the best of their knowledge.
Dr. NELTE: I believe we can shorten this considerably, Herr Marshal, however important your explanations are. The decisive point now is - if you would take the document in front of you - and compare the draft which you finally made on pressure from Obersalzberg and tell me what happened after that.
KEITEL: Yes. About four weeks after 1 had been given this job, I sent to Obersalzberg a draft of a directive for the preparatory measures. In reply I was informed that Hitler himself would come to Berlin to speak with the Commander-in-Chief. He came to Berlin at the end of May and I was present at the conference with Generaloberst Von Brauchitsch. In this conference the basic plan was changed altogether, namely, to the effect that Hitler expressed the Intention to take military action against Czechoslovakia in the very near future. As reason why he changed his mind he gave the fact that Czechoslovakia - I believe it was on the May 20 or 21 - had ordered general mobilization and Hitler at that time declared this could have been directed only against us. Miltary preparations had not been made by Germany. This was the reason for the complete change of his intentions, which he communicated orally to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and he ordered him to begin preparations at once. This explains the changes in the basic orders - that is to say, the directive which was now being issued had as ist basic idea: "It is my irrevocable decision to take military action against Czechoslovakia in the near future."
Dr. NELTE: War against Czechoslovakia was avoided as a result of the Munich Agreement. What was your opinion and that of the generals about this agreement?
KEITEL: We were extraordinarily happy that it had not come to a military operation, because throughout the time of preparation we had always been of the opinion that our means of attack against the frontier fortifications of Czechoslovakia were insufficient. From a purely military point of view we lacked the means for an attack which involved the penetration of the frontier fortifications. Consequently we were extremely satisfied that a peaceful political solution had been reached.
Dr. NELTE: What effect did this agreement have on the generals regarding Hitler's prestige?
KEITEL: I believe I may say that as a result this greatly increased Hitler's prestige among the generals. We recognized that on the one hand military means and military preparations had been neglected and an the other hand a solution had been found which we had not expected and for which we were extremely thankful.
Dr. NELTE: Is it not amazing that 3 weeks after the Munich Agreement that had been so welcomed by everyone, including the generals, Hitler gave instructions for the occupation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia?
KEITEL: I believe that recently Reichs Marshal Göring enlarged on this question in the course of his examination. It was my impression, as I remember it, that Hitler told me at that time that he did not believe that Czechoslovakia would overcome the loss of the Sudeten-German territories with their strong fortifications and moreover, he was concerned about the close relations then existing between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union and thought that Czechoslovakia could and perhaps would become a military and strategic menace. These were the military reasons which were given to me.
Dr. NELTE: Was it not pointed out to Hitler by anyone that solution by force of the problem regarding the remainder of Czechoslovakia involved a great danger, namely, that the other powers, that is England, France would be offended?
KEITEL: I was not informed of the last conversation in Munich between the British Prime Minister Chamberlain and the Führer. However, I regarded this question, as far as its further treatment was concerned, as a political one and consequently I did not raise any objections, if I may so express myself, especially as a considerable reduction in the military preparations decided on before the Munich meeting was ordered. Whenever the political question was raised, the Führer refused to discuss it.
Dr. NELTE: In connection with this question of Czechosloval I should like to mention Lieutenant Colonel Köchling, who was characterized by the Prosecution as the liaison man with Henlien. Was the Wehrmacht or the OKW engaged in this matter?
KEITEL: Köchling's job remained unknown to me; it was I who named Köchling. Hitler asked me if an officer was available for a special mission and if so he should report to me. After I dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Köchling from Berlin I neither saw nor spoke to him again. I do know, however, that, as I heard later, he was with Henlein as a sort of military adviser.
Dr. NELTE: The Prosecution has pointed out that you were present at the visit of Minister President Tiso in March 1939, as well as at the visit of President Hacha and from this it was deduced that you participated in the political discussions which then took place. What role did you play on these occasions?
KEITEL: It is true, I believe in every case, that on the occasion of such state visits and visits of foreign statesmen I was present in the Reichs Chancellery or at the reception. I never took part in the actual discussions of political questions. I was present at the reception and feit that I should be present to be introduced as a high-ranking representative of the Wehrmacht. But in each individual case that I can recall I was dismissed with thanks or in the antechamber in case I should be needed. I can positively say that I did not say one single word either to Tiso or to President Hacha on that night, nor did I take part in Hitler's direct discussion with these men. May I add that just on the night of President Hacha's visit I had to be present in the Reichs Chancellery, because during that night the High Command of the Army had instructed as to how the entry which had been prepared was to take place.
Dr. NELTE: In this connection I wish to establish only that since I assume that this question has been clarified by Reichsminister Görings testimony. You never spoke to President Hacha of posssible bombing of Prague in the event that he should not be willing to sign?
KEITEL: No.
Dr. NELTE: We come now to the case of Poland. Here the Prosecution accuses you of having participated in the planning and preparation for military action against Poland and of having assisted in the execution of this action. Would you state in brief your attitude towards these Eastern problems?
KEITEL: The question concerning the problem of Danzig and the Corridor were known to me. I also knew that political decisions and negotiations with regard to these questions were pending. The case of the attack on Poland, which in the course of time had to be and was prepared, was, of course, closely connected with these problems.
Since I myself was not concerned with political matters, I personally was of the opinion that, as in the case of Munich and before Munich, military preparations, that is, military pressure if 1 may call it such, would play the same kind of role as in my opinion it had played at Munich. I did not believe that the matter would be brought to an end without military preparations.
Dr. NELTE: Could not this question have been solved by preceding negotiations?
KEITEL: That is hard for me to say, although I know that several discussions took place concerning the Danzig question, as well as concerning a solution of the Corridor problem. I recall remarks that impressed me at the time, when Hitler once said I deplored Marshal Pilsudski's death, because he believed he reached or could have reached an agreement with this state. This statement was once made to me.
Dr. NELTE: The Prosecution has stated that already in the autumn of 1938 Hitler was working on the question of a war against Poland. Did you participate in this in 1938?
KEITEL: No. This I cannot recall. I should like to believe that to my recollection, at that time there were even signs that this was not the case. At that time I accompanied Hitler on an extensive tour of inspection of the eastern fortifications. We covered the entire front from Pomerania through the Oder-Warthe marshland as far as Breslau in order to inspect the various frontier fortifications against Poland. The question of fortifications in East Prussia was thoroughly discussed at that time. When I consider this in this connection today, I can only assume that for him these discussions were possibly connected with the Danzig and Corridor problem and he simply wanted to find out whether these eastern fortifications had sufficient defensive strength, should the Danzig and the Corridor question eventually lead to war with Poland.
Dr. NELTE: When were the preparations made for the occupation of Danzig?
KEITEL: I believe that as early as the late autumn of 1938 orders were issued that Danzig be occupied at a favorable moment by a coup de main from East Prussia. That is all I know about it.
Dr. NELTE: Was the possibility of war against Poland discussed in this connection?
KEITEL: Yes, that was apparently connected with the examination of the possibilities to defend the border, but I do not recall any, nor was there any kind of preparation, any military preparations at that time, apart from a surprise attack from East Prussia.
Dr. NELTE: If 1 remember rightly you once told me, when we discussed this question, that Danzig was to be occupied only if this would not result in a war with Poland.
KEITEL: Yes, that is so. This statement was made time and again, that this occupation of, or the surprise attack on Danzig was to be carried out only if it was certain that it would not lead to war.
Dr. NELTE: When did this view change?
KEITEL: I believe Poland's refusal to discuss any kind of solution of the Danzig question was apparently the reason for further deliberations and steps.
Dr. NELTE: The Prosecution is in possession of the directive 3 April 1939...
KEITEL: I might perhaps add that generally after Munich, the situation also in regard to the Eastern problem was viewed differently, perhaps, or as I believe, from this point of view: The problem of Czechoslovakia has been solved satisfactorily without a shot. This will perhaps also be possible with regard to the other German problems in the East. I also believe I remember Hitler saying that he did not think the Western Powers, particularly England, would be interested in Germany's Eastern problem and would sooner act as mediators than raise any objection.
Dr. NELTE: That is Document C-120, the "Fall Weiss". According to this, the directive was issued on April 3 April.
KEITEL: Let us take the document first. In the first sentence is already stated that this document was to replace the regular annual instructions of the Wehrmacht regarding possible preparations for mobilization, a further elaboration of subjects known to us from the instructions which had been issued in 1937 - 38 and which were issued every year. But in fact, at that time or shortly before, Hitler had in my presence, directly instructed the Commander-in-Chief of the Army to make strategie and operative preparations for an attack on, for a war with Poland. I then issued these considerations, as can be seen from this document, that is, the Führer had already ordered the following: Everything should be worked out by the OKH of the Army by September 1, 1939, and after this a time table should be drawn up. This document was signed by me at that time.
Dr. NELTE: What was your attitude and that of the other generals towards this war?
KEITEL: I must say that at this time, as in the case of preparations against Czechoslovakia, both the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the generals to whom I spoke, and also I, myself were opposed to the idea of waging a war against Poland. We did not want this war, but, of course, we immediately began to carry out the given orders, at least as far as the elaboration by the General Staff was concerned. Our reason was that to our knowledge the military means which were at our disposal at that time, that is to say, the divisions, their equipment, their armament, let alone the absolutely inadequate supply of munition kept reminding us soldiers that we were not ready to wage a war.
Dr. NELTE: Do you mean to say that in your consideration, only military viewpoints defined your attitude?
KEITEL: Yes. I must admit that. I did not concern myself with the political problems but only with the question: Can we or we not?
Dr. NELTE: I want to establish only this. Now, on May 23, there was a conference at which Hitler addressed the generals. You know this address? What was the reason for and the content of this address?
KEITEL: I saw the minutes of it for the first time in the course of my interrogations here. It reminded me of the situation at the time. The purpose of this address was to show the generals that their misgivings were unfounded, to remove their misgivings and finally to point out that the conditions were not yet given and the political negotiations about these matters still could and perhaps would change the situation. It was however simply to give encouragement.
Dr. NELTE: Were you at that time of the opinion that war would actually break out?
KEITEL: No, at that time - and this was perhaps rather naïve - I believed that war would not break out, that in view of military preparations ordered, negotiations would take place again and a solution would be found. In our military consideration a strictly military point of view was always dominant. We generals believed that France - to a lesser extent England - in view of her mutual-assistance pact with Poland would intervene and that we did not at all have the defensive means for this. For this very reason I personally was always convinced that there would be no war because we could not wage a war against Poland if France attacked us in the West.
Dr. NELTE: Now then, what was your opinion of the situation after the speech of August 22, 1939?
KEITEL: This speech was made at the end of August and addressed to the generals assembled at Obersalzberg, the Commanders-in-Chief of the troops preparing in the East. When Hitler towards the end of this speech, declared that a pact had been concluded with the Soviet Union, I was firmly convinced that there would be no war because I believed that these conditions constituted a basis for negotiation and that Poland would not expose herself to it. I also believed that now a basis for negotiations had been found although Hitler said in this speech, a copy of which I read here for the first time from notes, that all preparations had been made, and that it was intended to put them into execution.
Dr. NELTE: Did you know that England actually attempted to act as intermediary?
KEITEL: No, I knew nothing of these matters. The first thing which was very surprising to me was that on one of those days which have been discussed here repeatedly, namely on the 24th or 25th, only a few days after the conference at Obersalzberg, I was suddenly called to Hitler at the Reichs Chancellery and he said to me only: "Stop everything at once, get Brauchitsch immediately. I need time for negotiations." I believe that after these few words I was dismissed.
Dr. NELTE: What followed thereupon?
KEITEL: I at once rang up the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and passed on the order, and Brauchitsch was called to the Führer. Everything was stopped and all decisions on possible military action were suspended, first without any time limit, on the folliwing day for a certain limited period, I believe it was 5 days according to the calculations we can make today.
Dr. NELTE: Did you know of the so-called minimum demands on Poland?
KEITEL: I believe that I saw them in the Reichs Chancellery, that Hitler himself showed them to me, so that I knew about them.
Dr. NELTE: As you saw them, I would like to ask whether you considered these demands to be serious?
KEITEL: At that time I was always only a few minutes the Reichs Chancellery and as a soldier I naturally believed that these were meant perfectly honestly.
Dr. NELTE: Was there any talk at that time of border incidents?
KEITEL: No. This question of border incidents was also extensively discussed with me here in my interrogations. In this situation and in the few discussions we had at the Reichs Chancellery in those days there was no talk at all on this question.
Dr. NELTE: I am now having Document 795-PS brought to you, notes which deal with the Polish uniforms for Heydrich.
KEITEL: May I add ...
Dr. NELTE: Please do.
KEITEL:... namely, that on August 30, I believe, the day for the attack, which took place on September 1, was again postponed for 24 hours. For this reason Brauchitsch and I were again called to the Reichs Chancellery and to my recollection the reason given was that a Polish Government plenipotentiary was expected. Everything was to be postponed for 24 hours. Then no further changes of the military instructions occurred.
This document deals with Polish uniforms for border incidents or for some sort of illegal actions. It has been shown to me, I know it, it is a subsequent note made by Admiral Canaris of a conversation he had with me. He told me at that time that he was to make available a few Polish uniforms. This had been communicated to him by the Führer through the adjutant. I asked: "For what purpose?" We both agreed that this was intended for some illegal action. If I remember rightly I told him at that time that I did not believe in such things at all and that he had better keep his hands off. We then had a short discussion about Dirschau which was also to be taken by a coup de main by the Wehrmacht. That is all I heard of it. I believe I told Canaris he could dodge the issue by saying that he had no Polish uniforms. He could simply say he had none and the matter would be settled.
Dr. NELTE: You know, of course, that this matter was connected with the subsequent attack on the radio Station at Gleiwitz. Do you know anything of this incident?
KEITEL: This incident, this action came to my knowledge for the first time heree through the testimony of witnesses. I never found out who was charged to carry out such things and I knew nothing of the raid on the radio Station at Gleiwitz until I heard the testimonies given here before the Tribunal. Neiher do I recall having heard at that time that such an incident had occurred.
Dr. NELTE: Did you know of the efforts of America and Italy after September 1, 1939 to end the war in one way or another?
KEITEL: I knew nothing at all of the political discussions that took place in those days from the August 24 to 30, 31 or the beginning of September 1939. I never knew anything about the visits of a Herr Dahlerus. I knew nothing of London's intervention. I remember only that, while in the Reichs Chancelle for a short time, I met Hitler, who said to me: 'Do not disturb me now, I am writing a letter to Daladier." This must have been in the first days of September. Neither I nor, to my knowledge any of the other generals ever knew anything about the matter I have heard of here or about the steps that were still taken after September 1. Nothing at all.
Dr. NELTE: What did you say to Canaris and Lahousen in the Führer's train on September 14, that is, shortly before the attack on Warsaw, with regard to the so-called political "house cleaning'
KEITEL: I have been interrogated here about this point, but did not recall this visit at all. But from Lahousen's testimony it appeared - he said, as I remember - that I had repeated what Hitle had said and had passed on these orders, as he put it. I know that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army who then directed the military operations in Poland had at the daily conferences already complained about interference by the police in occupied Polish territory. I can only say that I apparently repeated what had been said about these things in my presence between Hitler and Von Brauchitsch. I can make no statements regarding details.
I might add that to my recollection the Commander-in-Chief of the Army at that time complained several times that as long as he had the executive power in the occupied territories he would under no circumstances tolerate other agencies in this area and that at his request he was relieved of his responsibility for Poland in October. I therefore believe that the statements the witness made from memory or on the strength of notes are not quite correct.
Dr. NELTE: We come now to the question of Norway. Did you know that in October 1939 Germany had given a declaration of neutrality to Denmark and Norway?
KEITEL: Yes, I knew that.
Dr. NELTE: Were yoü and the OKW taken into consultation about declarations of neutrality in this or other cases?
KEITEL: No.
Dr. NELTE: Were you informed of them?
KEITEL: No, we were not informed either. These were discussions referring to foreign policy, of which we soldiers were not informed.
Dr. NELTE: You mean you were not informed officially. You as a person who also reads newspapers knew of it?
KEITEL: Yes.
Dr. NELTE: Good. Before our discussion about the problem of aggressive war I asked you a question which, in order to save time, I would not like to repeat. However, it seems to me that the question I put to you in order to get your opinion on aggressive war must be asked again in this connection because an attack on a neutral country, a country which had been given a guarantee was bound to cause particular scruples on the part of people who have to do with these things, with the waging of war.
Therefore, I put this question to you again in this case. I ask you to describe what your attitude and the soldiers' attitude was to it.
KEITEL: In this connection, I must say we were already at war. There was a state of war with England and France. It would be right for me to say that I interfered in the least with matters, but I regarded them rather as political matter and as a soldier, I held the opinion that preparations for military action against Norway and Denmark did not yet mean their outbreak and that these preparations would very obviously take months if such an action was executed at all and that in the meantime the situation could change. It was this train of thought which caused me to take any steps in regard to the impossibility to consider and prepare strategically this Intervention in Norway and Denmark, therefore, I left these things, I must say, to those who were concerned with political matters. I cannot put it any other way.
Dr. NELTE: When did the preparations for this action start?
KEITEL: I think the first deliberations took place already in October 1939; on the other hand, the first directives were only in January, that is to say, several months later. In connection with the discussions before this Tribunal and with the information given by Reichs Marshal Göring in his statements, I also remember that one day I was ordered to call Grand Admiral Raeder to the Führer. He wanted to discuss with him questions regarding sea warfare in the Bay of Helgoland and in the Atlantic Ocean and the dangers we would encounter in waging war in this area.
Then Hitler ordered me to call together a special staff which was to study all these problems from the viewpoint of sea, air, and land warfare. I remembered this also upon seeing the document produced here. This special staff dispensed with my personal assistance. Hitler said at the time that he himself would furnish tasks for this staff. These were, I believe, the military considerations in the months from 1939 to the beginning of 1940.
Dr. NELTE: In this connection I should only like to know further whether you had any conversation with Quisling at this stage of preliminary measures?
KEITEL: No, I saw Quisling neither before nor after the Norwegian campaign; I saw him for the first time approximately 1 or 2 years later. We had no contact, not even any kind of transmission of information. I already stated in a preliminary interrogation that by order of Hitler I sent an officer, I believe it was Colonel Pieckenbrock, to Copenhagen for conferences with Norwegians. I did not know Quisling.
Dr. NELTE: As to the war in the West, there is once more in the foreground the question of violation of neutrality in the case of Luxemburg, Belgium and Holland. Did you know that the 3 countries had been given assurances regarding the inviolability of their neutrality?
KEITEL: Yes, I knew and also was told that at that time.
Dr. NELTE: I do not want to ask the same questions as in the case of Norway and Denmark, but, in this connection, however I should like to ask: Did you consider these assurances by Hitler to be honest?
KEITEL: When I remember the situation as it was then, I did at that time believe, when I learned of these things, that there was no Intention of bringing any other state into the war. At any rate I had no reason, no justification, to assume the opposite, namely that this was intended as a deception.
Dr. NELTE: After the conclusion of the Polish campaign did you still believe that there was any possibility of terminating or localizing the war?
KEITEL: Yes, 1 did believe this. My view was strengthened by the Reichstag speech after the Polish war, in which allusions were made which convinced me that political discussions about thisl question were going on, above all with England and because Hitler had told me time and again, whenever these questions were brought up, "The West is actually not interested in these Eastern problems of Germany." This was the phrase he always used to calm people, namely that the Western Powers were not interested in these problems.
Furthermore, seen from a purely military point of view, it must be added that we soldiers had, of course, always expected an attack by the Western Powers, that is to say, by France, during the Polish campaign, and were very surprised that in the West, apart from some skirmishes between the Maginot Line and the Westwall, nothing had actually happened, though we had - this I know for certain - along the whole Western Front from the Dutch border to Basel only five divisions, apart from the small forces manning the fortifications of the Westwall. Thus, from a purely military operative point of view, a French attack during the Polish campaign would have encountered only a German military screen, not a real defense. Since nothing of this sort happened, we soldiers thought of course that the Western Powers had no serious intentions, because they did not take advantage of the extremely favorable situation for military operations and did not undertake anything, at least not anything serious, against us during the 3 to 4 weeks when all the German fighting formations were employed in the East. This also strengthened our views as to what the attitude of the Western Powers would probably be in the future.
Dr. NELTE: What plans did Hitler have for the West?
KEITEL: During the last phase of the Polish campaign, he had already transferred all unnecessary forces to the West, in consideration of the fact that at any time something eise might happen there. However, during the last days of the Polish campaign, had already told me that he intended to throw his forces as swiftly as possible from the East to the West and if possible, attack in the West in the winter of 1939-1940.
Dr. NELTE: Did these plans include attacks on and march through Luxemburg, Belgium, and Holland?
KEITEL: Not in the beginning, but first, if we can express it from the military point of view, the deployment in the West was to be a protective measure, that is, a thorough strengthening of the frontiers, of course preferably to take place where there was nothing except border posts. Accordingly, already at the end of September and the beginning of October, a transportation of the army from the East to the West did take place, as a security measure without, however, any fixed center of gravity.
Dr. NELTE: What did the military Leaders know about Belgium's~ and Holland's attitude?
KEITEL: This naturally changed several times in the course of the winter. At that time, in the autumn of 1939 - I can speak only for myself and there may be other opinions on this matter – I was convinced that Belgium wanted to remain out of the war under any circumstances and would do anything she could to preserve her neutrality. On the other band, we received, through the close connections between the Belgian and Italian royal houses, a number of reports that sounded very threatening. I had no way of finding out whether they were true, but we learned of them, and they indicated that strong pressure was exerted on Belgium to give up her neutrality.
As for Holland, we knew at that time only that there were General Staff relations between her and England.
But then of course, in the months from October 1939 to May 1940, the situation changed considerably and the tension varied greatly. From the purely military point of view, we knew one thing: That all the French swift units, that is, motorized units, were concentrated on the Belgian-French border, and, from a military point of view we interpreted this measure as meaning that at least preparations were being made for crossing through Belgium at any time with the swift units and advancing up to the borders of the Ruhr district.
I believe I should omit details here, because they are not important for the further developments, they are of a purely operational and strategic nature.
Dr. NELTE: Were there differentes of opinion between the generals and Hitler with reference to the attack in the West which was to take place through this neutral territory?
KEITEL: I believe I must say that this at that time was one the most serious crises in the whole war, namely the opinions held by a number of generals, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Von Brauchitsch and his Chief of the General Staff, and I also personally belong to that group, which wanted at all costs to attempt to prevent an attack in the West which Hitler intended for that winter. There were various reasons for this: The difficulty of transporting the Eastern Army to the West; then the point of view - and this I must state - the fact that we believed at that time, perhaps more from the political point of view, that if we did not attack, the possibility,of a peaceful solution might still exist and might still be realizable. Thus we considered it possible that between then and the spring many political changes could take place. Secondly, as soldiers, we were decidedly against the waging of a winter war in view of the short days and long nights, which are always a great hindrance to all military operations. To Hitler's objection that French swift forces might march through Belgium at any time and then stand before the Ruhr district, we answered that we were superior in such a situation in a war of movement, we were a match for it; this was our view. I may add that this situation led to very serious crisis between Hitlerr and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and also me, because I had this trend of thought which Hitler vigorously rejected because it was, as he declared, strategically wrong. In our talks he accused me in the sharpest manner of conspiring against him with the generals of the Army, strengthening them in their opposition to his views. I must state here that I then asked to be relieved immediately of my post and given another, because I feit that under these circumstances the confidence between Hitler and myself had been completely destroyed and I was greatly offended. I may add that relations with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army also suffered greatly from this. But the idea of my discharge or employment elsewhere was sharply rejected. I would not be entitled to it. It has already been discussed here; I need not go into it any further. But this breach of confidence was not to be mended, not even in the future. In the case of Norway, there had already been a similar conflict because I had left the house. General Jodl's diary refers to it as a "serious crisis." I shall not go into this in detail.
Dr. NELTE: What was the reason for Hitler's speech to the Commanders-in-Chief on November 23, 1939, in the Reichs Chancellery?
KEITEL: I can say that this was very closely connected with the crisis between Hitler and the generals. He called a meeting of generals at that time to present and substantiate his views, and we knew it was his Intention to bring about a change of attitude on the part of the generals. In the notes on this speech, we see that individual persons were more than once directly and sharply rebuked. The reasons given by those who had spoken against this attack in the West were repeated. Moreover, he now wanted to make an irrevocable statement of his will to carry out this attack in the West that very Winter, because this, in his view, was the only strategic solution, as every delay was to the enemy's advantage. In other words, at that time, he no longer counted on any other solution than resort to force of arms.
Dr. NELTE: When, then, was the decision made to advance through Belgium and Holland?
KEITEL: The preparations for such a march through and attack on Belgium and Holland had already been made, but Hitler withheld the decision as to whether such a big attack or violation of the neutrality of these countries was actually to be carried out, and kept it open until the spring of 1940, obviously for all sorts of political reasons and perhaps also with the idea that the problem would automatically be solved if the enemy invaded Belgium or if the mobile French troops entered, or something like that. I can only state that the decision for the carrying out of this plan was withheld until the very last moment and the order was given only immediately before it was to be executed. I believe that there was a one other factor in this, which I have already mentioned, namely the relationship between the royal houses of Italy and Belgium. Hitler always surrounded his decisions with secrecy for he was obviously äfraid that they might become known through this relationship.

(A recess was taken)

Definitielijst

front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Führer
German word for leader. During his reign of power Adolf Hitler was Führer of Nazi Germany.
Maginot Line
French defence line along the French-German border.
Marshal
Highest military rank, Army commander.
mobilization
To make an army ready for war, actually the transition from a state of peace to a state of war. The Dutch army was mobilized on the 29 August 1939.
Munich Agreement
Conference in 1938 between Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini about Czechoslovakia. To prevent a European war, Czechoslovakia had to give up the "Sudetenland” area to Germany.
neutrality
Impartiality, absence of decided views, the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict.
OKH
“Oberkommando des Heeres”. German supreme command of the army.
OKW
“Oberkommando der Wehrmacht”. German supreme command of the Armed Forces, Army, Air Force and Navy.
raid
Fast military raid in enemy territory
Soviet Union
Soviet Russia, alternative name for the USSR.
Wehrmacht
German armed military forces, divided in ground forces, air force and navy.
Westwall.
Also known as Siegfried Line, the German defence line along the German-French border.

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Published by:
Arnold Palthe
Published on:
27-10-2018
Last edit on:
07-11-2018
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